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2 Benefits of Angelica Gigas + Side Effects

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Evguenia Alechine
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi

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Nicknamed the “female ginseng”, Angelica gigas has a long history in traditional Korean medicine. Mainly used for gynecological health, Angelica gigas has the potential to combat inflammation and protect the brain.

What Is Angelica gigas?

Angelica gigas (full name: Angelica gigas Nakai) is also referred to as Korean Angelica, giant Angelica, and cham-dang-gui (참당귀). It is mainly found in Korea, with two other closely-related Angelica species found in Japan and China [1].

The Chinese species is Angelica sinensis, also referred to as dong quai or danggui. There are differences in the chemical composition and potential medical uses between Angelica gigas and Angelica sinensis. Angelica sinensis is typically used to promote blood circulation, while Angelica gigas is preferred for menstrual issues and overall gynecological health [2].

Traditionally, the dried root of Angelica gigas is boiled in water before being taken orally [3, 4].

Components

The major chemical components of Angelica gigas are decursin and decursinol angelate. These two molecules are rapidly converted to decursinol in the liver. This suggests that decursinol could be the actual active component leading to the observed effects [4, 5, 3].

Other compounds in Angelica gigas include:

  • Nodakenin
  • Angelan
  • Caffeic acid

Mechanisms of Action

Both decursin and nodakenin decrease acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine [1, 1, 6].

Angelan increases the production of the cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, and IFN-γ, activates B cells to produce more antibodies, and promotes the maturation of immune cells (dendritic cells) by activating TLR4 signaling pathways [7, 7, 8].

Caffeic acid activates the estrogen receptor hER-β [9].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • May improve menopausal symptoms
  • May improve and preserve brain function
  • Few adverse effects reported

Skeptics

  • Only 2 clinical trials carried out so far
  • Most of the potential health benefits have only been investigated in animals and cells
  • May interact with blood thinners

Health Benefits of Angelica

Insufficient Evidence for:

1) Menopausal Symptoms

Angelica gigas is traditionally used to treat irregular menstrual flow and menopausal symptoms due to its estrogenic activity. Studies in cells suggest its effects may be comparable to those of hormone replacement therapy [10, 11, 11].

EstroG-100 is an herbal formula that contains Angelica gigas and two other herbs (Cynanchum wilfordii and Phlomis umbrosa). In a clinical trial on 64 pre-, peri-, and post-menopausal women, EstroG-100 improved menopausal symptoms (vasomotor, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, vertigo, fatigue, and rheumatic pain) without serious side effects [12].

Angelica gigas normalized estrogen and progesterone levels and reduced bone loss in menopausal rats [13].

An herbal formula with Angelica gigas, Cassia cinnamon, and Cnidium officinale reduced bone loss, weight gain, and uterine thinning in menopausal rats by activating estrogen-responsive genes [14].

Although the results are promising, a single clinical trial (using Angelica gigas in combination with other herbs) and some animal and cell-based research cannot be considered sufficient evidence to support the use of Angelica gigas to improve menopausal symptoms. More clinical trials on larger populations are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

2) Brain Function

A study measuring brain electrical activity in 20 healthy volunteers found that smelling Angelica gigas essential oil increased the level of brain waves related to language learning ability [15].

Brain cell damage can occur due to many factors, including inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause damage to DNA, proteins, and fats [1, 16, 17].

Angelica gigas prevented the death of brain cells in cell-based studies, suggesting its potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases [1].

A standardized alcohol extraction from Angelica gigas called INM-176 reduced cognitive deficits and decreased memory loss in mice treated with scopolamine [1, 18, 19].

ESP-102 is a formula with Angelica gigas root, Saururus chinensis fruit, and Schisandra chinensis fruit in an 8:1:1 ratio. ESP-102 protected rat brain cells from glutamate toxicity and helped the animals recover from memory impairment [1].

The formulas LMK02 (Angelica gigas and 7 other herbs/mushrooms) and LMK03 (Angelica gigas and Poria cocos mushroom) protected rat hippocampal brain cells against cell damage and inhibited neurotoxicity and oxidative stress in human neuroblastoma cells. LMK02 and LMK03 also reduce Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice [1, 20].

Bozhougyiqi-tang (BZYQT) is an herbal medicine made from Angelica gigas, ginseng, Astragalus, and other herbs. It protected mouse hippocampal cells from cell damage and led to greater cognitive performance [1, 21, 1].

Angelica gigas also prevented brain damage and helped counter the onset of symptoms of pre-Alzheimer’s disease in mice [22].

Treatment of mice with decursin reduced memory loss and protected brain cells from oxidative stress. Similarly, decursinol reduced memory loss in mice and protected brain cells from glutamate toxicity [1, 1].

The research in animals is promising, but only a small human study has been carried out. Larger, more robust clinical trials are needed to establish if Angelica gigas helps improve and preserve brain function.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of Angelica gigas for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Inflammation

Angelica gigas reduced inflammation caused by too much nitric oxide and inflammatory molecules like TNF-alpha and IL-6 in rats and mice [23, 23].

In mice with eczema, its compounds nodakenin and decursin reduced itching, the severity of the lesions, and blood antibody levels [24, 25].

The herbal formula APR (Angelica gigas, Panax ginseng, and Rhus verniciflua) is used to suppress inflammation. In inflamed mouse macrophages (immune cells that engulf foreign particles), APR reduced oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function [26].

Both decursin and decursinol angelate protected rat adrenal gland cells from toxins and decreased inflammation [27, 1].

Preventing Weight Gain

Decursin prevented insulin from causing fat cells to grow, drastically reducing fat accumulation and weight gain, in mice. Mice treated with decursin had reduced levels of leptin, resistin, IL-6, and MCP-1 (which were increased by a high-fat diet) [28].

Bone Loss

In menopausal rats, Angelica gigas prevented a decrease in bone mineral density, an indicator of bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis. Additionally, Angelica gigas increased bone stiffness and strength compared to controls and prevented bone loss in treated rats’ tibias [29].

Nicotine Addiction

Smelling Angelica gigas essential oils reduced sensitivity to nicotine in nicotine-addicted mice by blocking the release of dopamine in response to this drug [30].

Pain

Decursinol blocked pain perception in mice [31, 32].

Reducing Skin Aging

Collagen is an abundant protein found in the skin, whose levels diminishes with age.

Angelica gigas increased collagen synthesis in human connective tissue cells [33].

Cancer

Below, we will discuss some preliminary research on Angelica gigas’ potential anticancer effects. It’s still in the animal and cell stage and further clinical studies have yet to determine if its extract may be useful in cancer therapies.

Do not under any circumstances attempt to replace conventional cancer therapies with Angelica gigas or any other supplements. If you want to use it as a supportive measure, talk to your doctor to avoid any unexpected interactions.

Angelica gigas’ compounds decursin, decursinol angelate, and decursinol reduced the growth and spreading of the following cancer types in mice and increased their lifespan [4, 34, 35]:

  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Colon
  • Soft tissue and bones (sarcoma)

In cell-based studies, these three compounds were effective against these and other cancer types such as [4, 3, 36, 37, 38]:

  • Breast
  • Bladder
  • Blood (myeloma, leukemia, lymphoma)
  • Ovarian
  • Cervical

Decursin and decursinol angelate also reduce the number of androgen receptors. These receptors are critical to the development of prostate cancer, which suggests their potential effectiveness for this type of cancer [4, 39].

Side Effects and Contraindications

Keep in mind that the safety profile of Angelica gigas is relatively unknown, given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects and drug interactions below is not a definite one and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

Based on the lack of adverse effects observed in clinical trials and its traditional use in Korean medicine, Angelica gigas is possibly safe when taken at normal doses [40, 12].

Due to the lack of safety data, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Angelica gigas.

Alcohol extracts of aerial parts (flower, leaf, and stem) of Angelica gigas stimulated the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, enzymes involved in drug and alcohol processing, in test tubes. This could increase the rate at which the body processes alcohol and other drugs.

Angelica may reduce the blood’s ability to clot. Therefore, it should not be used in conjunction with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin and Xarelto without first consulting a physician [1].

Dosage

Because Angelica gigas is not approved by the FDA for any condition, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if Angelica gigas may be useful as a complementary approach in your case and which dose you should take.

In treating menopausal symptoms, participants took two capsules a day, with each capsule containing 257.05 mg EstroG-100 powder [12].

For aromatherapy, study participants smelled a small volume (10 uL put onto filter paper) of pure Angelica gigas extract for 1 to 2 minutes [15].

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of Angelica gigas users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

The majority of users gave positive reviews of an anti-inflammation formula (specifically for joint pain relief) containing Angelica gigas extract (Decursinol-50), stating that it quickly relieved pain without side effects.

Some users taking another Angelica gigas extract (INM-176) reported that it improved their memory.

Most reviews of EstroG-100 (used in the treatment of menopause symptoms) reported good results at relieving hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. However, some said that they experienced no effect. The only reported side effect by one user was difficulty falling asleep after taking EstroG-100 at night.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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